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Nashville printer recovers from flood disaster

Feb 3, 2011 12:00 AM


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KBA North America announces Marshall & Bruce Printing Co., a specialist in general commercial printing, packaging and fulfillment services, has survived the 2010 spring floods in its headquarter location of Nashville and returned to full-service printing through the aid of KBA. A historic flood in May 2010 nearly destroyed the firm’s KBA Rapida 105 41-inch, 7-color press with digital CIP4 signal transmission and fiber optics.

“A disaster of this kind is devastating for any business,” says Chip Smith, president, Marshall & Bruce. “While the clean-up, our customer’s work, all of our supplies and equipment, and insurance were very important, the most pressing problem was our Rapida 105. If we couldn’t repair or recondition the press, we didn’t have a business. KBA came to our aid and provided an incredible team of mechanics and electricians who stayed with us for seven weeks. They came into a very difficult situation, had great attitudes throughout the process, and saw the job through to completion.  I am confident that we would not be back on our feet today without the concentrated focus and support from KBA.”

The 145-year-old printing firm sits across the street from the banks of the Cumberland River, which reached nearly 12 feet above flood stage and topped out at 51.9 feet before the waters began to finally recede. Hundreds of people were rescued from their homes by boat and canoe. Thousands of residents were displaced and hundreds of businesses were flooded along with extensive damage to the Grand Old Opry, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center and the Opryland Hotel.

After 12- to 17-inches of rain fell in a 36-hour period, Smith says, “One of our employees, Casey Johnson, came to our facility in the middle of the night and cut the electric. That was a key decision and he helped save our company.”

By daybreak, the river water began to rise slowly. As the floodwaters began to peak on Monday afternoon, Marshall & Bruce’s facility had three feet of flood water in the plant that lasted for 36 hours.

Smith and his management team slogged through the facility and found themselves knee-deep in river water. Their KBA press had flood water up to the catwalks. Repairs had to be made to all of the pumps, motors and other systems housed below the catwalk level of the press. The electrical system on the press had to be cleaned and changed. Smith’s brother, vice president of sales and marketing, quickly focused on their customers; Chip Smith took over the plant, equipment, insurance, and building needs.

It took two months for the company to become fully operational again. KBA sent mechanics and electricians to help Marshall & Bruce rebuild the press. “Darwin and Sebastian were excellent,” says Smith. “I can’t say enough about their knowledge and professionalism. They worked for two to three weeks at a time and on weekends protecting the press, keeping it greased so that no moisture would get inside. They were very methodical.”

During that time, the firm moved from being a printer to a print broker. With its KBA press offline, Marshall & Bruce helped its clients find temporary printers in Nashville, Chattanooga and Alabama. “We told our customers that we would understand if they temporarily needed to work with another printer,” Smith says. “That preserved a lot of relationships and we lost no major clients in the flood’s wake.”

Almost as devastating as the flood was the realization that Smith would need to reduce his workforce to save the company.

As the KBA press was being rebuilt and returned to working condition, other key equipment needed to be replaced. Marshall & Bruce lost its platesetters and computer systems, as well as bindery equipment. Damage to its materials and paper were significant as well as finished goods. In all, the firm’s loss was assessed at $2 million.

Several months later, Marshall & Bruce is almost back to normal. “We’re one shift away on the press and we’re still down a few employees,” says Smith. “We just brought back two employees in late November.” Revenue took a hit; when the company reported its fiscal year sales, which ended in August 2010, it posted $10.5 million in sales, down from $12 million a year prior.

Smith says they are celebrating the little victories. “When the press was first able to be turned on after the flood, we celebrated. When the press printed its first sheets again, we celebrated. When the main computer began to work again, we celebrated. Our entire company revolved around our KBA Rapida 105 press and the high quality of work we produced; if it didn’t work, we didn’t have a company. It’s the linchpin to our business.”